E Aldridge and Sons Ltd

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E. Aldridge & Son (Locksmiths) Ltd[edit]

Established: 1965
London Branch: Silca House, 32-34 Eagle Wharf Road, London, N1 7EG, UK.
Manchester Branch: Neville Hamilton House, 50 Queen Street, Salford, M3 7DQ, UK.
Activity: Wholesaler.
Status: Now known as Aldridge Security Ltd.

Company History Ted Aldridges early life formed an approach to work that guaranteed the successful growth of Aldridge into one of the major names in the lock industry. He was left an orphan as a young boy and went to live with relatives in Finsbury, but with money scarce, the only way he ensured he wasent sent to a home was by paying his way whilst still at school. As a 12 year old he started work in 1928 for Sebry Brothers with a delivery round that took in the East End, Central London, and the West End. This was all done on foot for the princely sum of 5/- per week.

On Leaving School, Ted started full time with Selbry brothers earning 10/- for a six day a week apprenticeship. As he learnt his trade Ted became the wandering repair man around the Whitehall area as much of Sebry's work was on Government contracts.

Work at that time entailed carrying his tool kit around to various buildings where keys had been lost. A sample job would mean opening the lock and taking it out of the desk or door to enable him to make a key to the lock before putting it back. Ted reckons he used to cut a thousand keys a week in those days and all the keys were cut by hand in his portable vice. The skill in making a key when you had no copy to work from was as follows; having opened the lock he would remove it and read the levers by measuring them with calipers or other precision tool. The key would then be cut from a blank using delicate saws and finished by hand files. Ted became so proficient that he could often cut blanks by looking at the lock without detailed measurements.

With the outbreak of war Ted joined the Royal Engineers, but his skills as a locksmith and the importance of Sebry's Government contracts kept him at home. Sebry's originally had five people handling all the government work but this was reduced to two as other employees were called up so Ted's postings were constantly deferred. He was on one these stints in London during which his friends were drafted out to the Middle East where all but two were subsequently killed. Meanwhile at home Ted was continuously involved in Government work which took him into 10 and 11 Downing Street and into secret underground war rooms.

Ted was demobbed with an eye injury in 1942 and with a second child on the way he felt he needed more than the £7 per week he was earning. When old man Sebry refused a request for a pay rise Ted decided that the time had come to set up on his own. He started by renting bench space for his vice at the back of a Rag and Bone merchants in Middleton Street for which he paid 10/- a week. He would go round the local ironmongers in the morning, cut their keys during lunchtime, and deliver them during the afternoon. This prompt service led to increased demand and his wife Lil was pressed into service using the first company vehicle when she pedaled round London collecting jobs which ranged from keys for locks or safes, to more bulky items such as repairs to old locks or document boxes. As soon as Ted had completed the work they were returned by Lil.Charges were competitive, for example a safe key cut by hand would cost 3/6.

Eddie Aldridge
By 1945 the business had expanded to the point where they could afford a small shop at 5 Friend Street, London EC1 with living accommodation above the shop. The trade was relatively unusual in 1945 and whilst there may have been a few small keycutters there were hardly any locksmiths. This meant constant demand and Lil was kept busy visiting the local Ironmongers and Builders Merchants for four years before the company managed to afford a delivery service.The Companies reputation for prompt service drew a growing number of customers and Eddie Aldridge was soon involved, although his deliveries during his school lunch hour, unlike his farther in his time, were done by bike! When Eddie left school he started in the business full time and was already a competent locksmith from the many hours he had spent in the firm. From the very beginning Eddie wanted to more than just cut keys as he realised that there was an opportunity for a company to specialise in supplying locks and security items for the growing number of locksmiths. With the introduction of mortice key machines more and more people started to cut their own keys, and this growing number of locksmiths were subject to the considerable delays in obtaining supplies from the manufacturers.

During this period the business was growing so fast that people were being taken on almost a monthly basis. In 1958 the company moved to larger premises in Goswell Road and these were expanded in 1962 with the addition of the shop next door. Further space was added in 1966. At the same time the wholesale side of the business was being developed with the first Chubb wholesale order being placed in 1963 for the sum of £1000 less 15% discount. An amount that kept both Ted and Eddie awake for several nights. Eddies policy was to stock in depth for his customers and this caused several problems with the local police when large deliveries spilled onto the pavement and had to be stored under tarpaulins and moved back into the shop at night. As space got tighter and tighter it became obvious that there was a need to move the wholesale side of the business and in April 1976 Eddie moved to the present premises in Eagle Wharf Road with Ted staying on at the Angel with his son-in-law and concentrating on the retail side.

Although Eagle Wharf Road was six times larger than the premises in Goswell Road the growth in the company aided by the boom in security meant that within six years the premises were bulging at the seams. Luck was to play its part when when the premises next door came up for sale meaning Eddie was able to expand by simply knocking through one wall.

During this time Aldridge had acquired another depot in the North. Following an approach from a small wholesaling company, S Wooing Locks, Aldridge were quick to see the potential of using their expertise to build a norther base. In 1980 the company was acquired with a turnover at that time of £275,000 a year; within 10 years this had been increased to over £5,000,000. The growth rate in the north also meant a move in premises in 1986 to a 22,000 square foot warehouse overlooking the new inner ring road in Manchester. This move was celebrated by organising the largest security exhibition to have been held in the north of England.

Also see:- Aldridge Security Ltd

Contributers:from The History of Locks Museum Archive